Tag Archives: honey bees

Introduction to Beekeeping – Basics For Someone New to Bees

Bee Biology by Sara and Dave

The Brown County Beekeepers Association is happy to present INTRODUCTION TO BEEKEEPING. Learn the essentials of beginning beekeeping!! The class will be presented in three sessions described below.

Prior to January 13th, 2024 — view three videos to prepare for the in person class. No more than 2 hours of video to watch
January 13th, 2024 — 8:00am to 2:00pm (in-person, location: Great Lakes Energy Education Center on the campus of NWTC, Rooms EE201/202)
and May 18th, 2024 8:00am to 10:00am (at the hive, location: Green Bay Botanical Gardens). Click for a map to the location.

How Much:
$50 for an individual, $40 for additional family members

What: Attendees will gain an understanding of:

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So you want to install a package of honey bees?

What is a BEE NUC and what is a BEE PACKAGE?

A bee nuc (nuc is short for nucleus) is a small colony made up of bees taken from a larger colony. It’s normally sold in a box with five frames standing side by side. A couple of those frames usually already have honey stores.

A bee package is typically sold in wooden frame boxes with screens on two sides. They are sold by the pound, and it takes approximately 3,500 bees to make a pound. A three-pound package, therefore, contains about 10,000 bees.

Inside a bee package is a can full of a sugar syrup mixture. The bees feed from this during transport. Bee packages can be mailed to you via USPS.  Each package also contains its own small wooden box covered on one side by a screen. This tiny box holds the queen and a few worker bees to tend her.

The Differences

Bees in a package can come from different hives. The bees in a nuc are generally from the same colony. Bee packages also tend to be less expensive than nucs. However, with a package, you’ll need to build the colony by transitioning the bees into your existing hives. This requires a greater education in beekeeping. For that reason, using nucs is typically less stressful than using packages.

Which one should you get?

Beginners would do well to begin with a 5-frame nuc rather than a 3-pound package of bees.   If you are a beginner, starting with an already established colony is going to increase your success rate immediately.  Beekeeping has a huge learning curve. Starting with a 3-pound package introduces a whole new set of elements that you have to learn before you start keeping bees.

Not only are you new at this but now your package bees are starting from scratch too. They have no foundation, no comb, no brood, no nectar and no pollen. And although you have a mated queen in a cage, she’s technically not laying because she has nowhere to lay yet. A nuc already comes with all of those elements.

So you’ve got your honey bee package, now what?

A few things before talking about installing your bees.   

  • Make sure your bee yard is all set up and your equipment is ready to go.
  • Make sure you have prepared 1:1 sugar water.
  • Pick up your bees with your bee suit and gloves handy. Most likely thousands of bees will be flying around.
  • Install your bees on the same day as pickup, if at all possible. However, a couple day delay will not harm your bees.
  • Secure your bees before transport. Recommend placing a mesh bag around the bees and use duct tape to ensure the cover can’t come off during transport.  In the event you had an accident you don’t want bees to be flying around in a vehicle to make matters worse.

Installing a Package into the Hive

  • Place an entrance reducer on hive opening.
  • Remove 5-6 Frames from hive box where you will be installing the new bees.
  • Remove the cover over the hole in the top of the cage and place it to the side.
  • Spray the package with sugar water.
  • One shake to cause the bees to fall to the bottom of the cage.
  • Remove the syrup can from the package and queen cage, cover opening with the cover you just removed.
  • Check the queen cage to make sure your queen is alive and well.   
  • Remove the cork, cap, and/or metal cover from the end of the queen cage.  Do not remove the candy.
  • You will find white candy separating the queen from the hole.
  • Poke a hole in the candy (use a paperclip or small nail).   Make sure you don’t harm the queen.
  • Place the queen in a safe location out of the sun.  We often put her in our jacket or shirt pocket if it is cool.
  • Place the queen cage between two middle frames at the top of the frames.  We like to use a paperclip to hold the queen cage in place so she doesn’t fall to the bottom of the box. (The Candy side should up)
  • The bees must become acquainted with the queen before she is released (bees will eat through the candy in order to release her once she is accepted). This can take several days.
  • Remove cover from package.
  • Shake bees into the gap in brood box.
  • Replace the previously removed frames – Gently. The bees will move out of the way.
  • Place the mostly empty container in front of hive and the remaining bees will work themselves into the hive.
  • Feed the bees with a 1 x 1 sugar syrup.
  • Put on the inside cover and place the telescoping cover on top with extra weights if you use them.
  • Remember to come back in 2-3 days to make sure the queen is out of the cage. If she is still in the cage, release her.
  • If it is very cold when you get your bees you can use the No Shake Method as discussed in the video.

Lighting and Using a Smoker

Why use a smoker?

The use of smoke causes to things to happen, both of which are beneficial to the beekeeper. First, the smoke masks the alarm scent bees emit to warm other bees about dangers to the hive (like a human taking the roof off their house). Without the warning bees will be less defensive. The second thing smoke does is make the bees believe there is a fire nearby and that the hive may be in danger. The response in the bees to go gorge on honey, as they may have to fly away and create a new home somewhere else. So a number of the bees are busy eating honey and less defensive.

What can be used a smoker fuel?

There are many types of fuel that can be used in your smoker. Here in Northeast Wisconsin there is an abundance of fallen pine needles which work very well. Other materials include pine cones, newspaper, cardboard, pelleted fuel, cotton waste, etc.. You can use pretty much anything that is combustible. Just don’t use anything that might be toxic-to you or your bees.

How does one light a smoker?

First, gather your materials. The smoker, an ignition source, flammable materials, hive tool, and fire extinguisher or water. Start by lighting something easy, like balled up newspaper or a used egg carton. Put it in the smoker and give it a few puffs. When it is burning well add more materials over it (pine needles, pellets, etc) and give it a few more puffs to get the material lite. Use you hive tool to gently press the materials down in the smoker. This packs the materials for a longer burn and can sterilize the hive tool if hot enough. Add more materials, pack, add more materials until full-all the while puffing away to ensure it stays lit. You are looking for a cool, white smoke and, for sure, no flames or embers flying out the nozzle which could injure your bees or start a fire.

So now, how does one use the smoker?

Start by giving a few puffs at the entrance to the hive. Remove the top cover and give a couple of puffs through the hole in the inner cover. Crack the inner cover and give a few more puffs. That should be sufficient to initially open the hive. Smoke the bees again if they are getting aggressive or the sound changes. There are times when the bees are just all wound up and no amount of smoke will calm them down. In that case, it is best to put the hive back together and come back another day

An article that is a bit more in depth on smoking bees.

A cursory overview of using a smoker from Mann Lake.

Using smoker in Kenya – almost identical to using it in Northeast WI.

Endangered Pollinators

Earth Day 2021-How to help

As we celebrate Earth Day 2021 the Brown County Beekeepers want to give everyone an idea of the importance of honey bees and pollinators and some suggestions on how everyone can help.

This short message from our President, Dave Elsen, is informative and full of suggestions.

UPDATED 5/8/2020: Guide to PURCHASING Honey Bees in Wisconsin

Image result for honeybees nyc

Here is the link for the UPDATED BCBA 2020 GUIDE TO PURCHASING BEES 2020. We are not endorsing any specific supplier, but giving members the option to see what’s available, do personal research and make educated decisions. This is the start to a GREAT year, please remember to come to club meetings for additional support and valuable information.